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Friday, September 27, 2013

Tech Time: 4 Reasons you should consider the Steam Box with the PS4 and XboxOne

Steam has recently announced the imminent release of their Steam OS, Steam Box and Steam Controller(symbolism above).  Valve revealed at LinuxCon that they would finally be releasing their rumored Steam Box in the near future. More recently, they also opened up beta to the Steam Box as well.  The managing director gave an awkward presentation on Valves vision and strategy for the future. From that, I have derived four pillars with the potential to push the Steam Box above and beyond current consoles.  


Controller
How does Valve plan to get the PC game experience into the living room? They redesigned their Steam interface to work with a controller, but there is not a controller on earth that can compete with the amount of keys you have on a keyboard.  My prediction is the implementation of Razer's Hydra and the ability to use available controllers for the PC on the Steam Box. The Hydra is compatible with all the major Valve titles. Oculus Rift will be mandatory. **Update Valve has released a Steam Box controller. There still could be hope for the Hydra.  We will have to wait and see. 
(Credit: Valve)

Games
Valve has games and they make games.  Half-Life 3 is rumored to be one of the release titles for the Steam Box.  Half-Life 2 is still an advanced game 9 years later! They should have no problem pushing out their own titles.  If the system uses a PC architecture there will also be no problem allowing the millions of PC titles to work on the Steam Box. Steam already is a distribution network for thousands of games.  It could have the most games available at launch of any console ever.
Valve is promoting indie game developers and how open its platform will be on a Linux OS.  Android is a pretty open system. He did mention updates being difficult to push through, and I think he hinted at or said the comment was directed at Apple. Apple is having quite a few difficulties as of late.


Competition
The biggest problem is going to be the PS4 and Xbox One(X1).  There is officially no room for the Wii U. The Steam Box will barely go into beta while these highly anticipated systems are going to saturate the market with console release dates and Christmas.  The biggest concern on this front is the timing.  If Valve can deliver on the F2P game model and incorporate PC titles this could change the market.  Do you think EA or Activision will mind porting their games over to a Steam Box? Nintendo Handhelds and the Sony Vita are meddling in the failing dedicated handheld hardware.  Mobile phones control the mobile gaming market. Steams presence on Android and Apple stores gives them access to that market without exposing them to loses. Getting the console into consumers homes will be their biggest hurdle.


Innovation(sorta)
In his speech he mentioned that the game industry was changing.  Valve is saying everything from the games to the hardware is going to be "hackable". He pushed the Free-to-play(F2P) gaming revenue model and that content was primarily being developed by the gaming community.  If they can offer games free of charge and offer Downloadable Content(DLC) that is player made, and thus abundant, then a Steam Box could be a viable candidate.  Not only community created content, but also indie games.  Steam has its “Greenlight” games that allows developers to make and distribute games via Steam. Imagine new content for your favorite games that is constantly being released and the ability to release your own. It is PC gaming without Windows. Will we see the same level of tablet integration from Valve on the Steam Box as is promised from Sony and Microsoft?


If Valve can deliver these key areas and offer a Steam Box at an attractive price point then they may be able to take over the console market.  It is obvious on the PC side that Valve has issues with Windows.  Valve pretty obviously attacked Apple on the mobile market. The only people they have not attacked is Google. Steam has a mobile presence on Android so there is no real reason to push there. And as you saw in the Messy Mobile Market article, Android is taking a lead there. In Valves presentation he mentioned the ability to play your games anywhere and not having to buy them multiple times for different devices.  By merging the console and PC market in a Steam Box and Steam being available on Android, you could buy games once and play them anywhere.  I am sure there will be one time purchase, subscription or in game currency game models.  It will be interesting to see what Valve actually does, but can you imagine people not jumping the Sony and Microsoft ship when games are F2P on the Steam Box?



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